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  • MaryGrace Lerin

Instagram's CEO to Testify Before Senate Subcommittee Regarding Platform's Influence on Children

Following months of investigation, Instagram's CEO, Adam Mosseri, is scheduled to appear in a Senate subcommittee hearing in early December about the platform's possibly negative influence on younger users.

Mosseri will be testifying before Congress for the first time. Since Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed hundreds of internal corporate documents, he has become the most high-profile executive from Meta, the social media company previously known as Facebook, to agree to testify. According to several of the documents, Instagram's own researchers discovered that the app can harm teenage users' mental health and body image, as well as exacerbate harmful behaviors like eating disorders.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, said in a statement to CNN Business, "After bombshell reports about Instagram's toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company's leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children, driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer." Blumental had previously requested testimony from Mosseri or Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Instagram's influence on children.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday, Mosseri, a longtime Facebook executive who has led Instagram since 2018, affirmed his plan to testify. According to Mosseri, the company and lawmakers "have shared goals."

"I look forward to these conversations because we all want young people to be safe when they're online," he said, "and you'll hear more from us about safety, not only at Instagram but at Meta more widely."

"We continue to engage with the committee to find a date for Adam [Mosseri] to testify on the crucial actions Instagram is taking," Meta spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement to CNN Business.

The hearing is being held in the midst of regulatory pressure on Meta (FB) and Instagram. An investigation into the possible dangers of Instagram for children and teens was initiated last week by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general. (The attorneys general's charges are untrue, according to Meta.) Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also sued Meta for allegedly deceiving the public about its algorithm and the harms its apps can cause users, a claim Meta denies.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on what internal documents and research revealed regarding Instagram's influence on young people in September. According to the research, Facebook was aware that Instagram was "toxic" for underage girls. Meta has rebutted the Journal's claims, claiming that its apps produce more benefit than harm.

Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of global safety, was interrogated by senators about Instagram's effects on children at a hearing in September. Davis was chastised for not more firmly committing to reveal more internal material on the platform, although saying the company was "looking for ways to provide more research" that she thought may create a different picture of the platform.

In late September, the company said that it was postponing plans to launch a version of Instagram for children due to the backlash from the Journal report.

Instagram has also emphasized its other efforts to develop tools that protect children, such as a "Take a Break" reminder, which was released in October amid much controversy. Mosseri also mentioned technologies like "hidden words" in his Twitter presentation on Wednesday, which give users more control over what individuals may say in their direct messages and comments. He also mentioned that the company is working on parental controls to limit how much time their children spend on the platform.

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